CINCINNATI -- Pirates second baseman Neil Walker began the last step in his return from right side soreness on Friday, when he started a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis.
Manager Clint Hurdle said there's a very specific plan for Walker, who went on the 15-day disabled list on July 9, retroactive to July 7. On Friday, Walker was scheduled to play five innings and get two or three at-bats. Assuming all went well Friday night, Hurdle said Walker would then play seven innings Saturday and a full nine innings on Sunday.
"We'll evaluate after that," Hurdle said.
Walker is eligible to come off the DL on Monday, and the Pirates hope he'll be able to join them when they begin a four-game road series against the Nationals that same day.
Currently at the tail end of his second DL stint this season, having previously missed 14 games in late April and early May after getting his right index finger cut by a spike, Walker owns a .244/.347/.384 slash line in 72 games. Jordy Mercer and Brandon Inge have manned second base with Walker out of the lineup, going a combined 4-for-30 (.133) entering Friday.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.